Second annual Grad Student Talks a success

by Laura King

Nature NL was lucky to have three bright and motivated graduate students from Memorial University speak with us last week. Being able to hear about cutting edge research straight from those in the lab and the field was wonderful. Connecting those interested in nature with Memorial researchers at is one of our interests at Nature NL and this well-attended evening certainly accomplished that.

This year’s theme was Air, Land, & Sea. Leanne Guzzwell, MSc candidate in the laboratory of Dr. Bill Montevecchi started us off with Air by speaking about nest abandonment in Northern Gannets. This occurs when adult birds permanently leave their nests and usually results in the deaths of chicks and juveniles. She discussed various factors that have been proposed for why this occurs, such as warmer temperatures and precipitation, and her research to link abondonment with some of these environmental factors.

Next up, for Land, Quinn Webber, a PhD candidate in Eric Vander Wal’s group, spoke about spatial ecology of the caribou herd on Fogo Island. He showed how tracking collars can be used to determine which individual animals associate with others, and what implications these types of social behaviour may have for parasite transmission.

Justine Ammendolia, of Annie Mercier’s lab, took us under the Sea and showed off her technologically advanced research to assess whether marine invertebrates such as sea stars and sea cucumbers can adapt to the enormous amount of pressure found at depth. Turns out some adapt better than others, which has implications for what may happen as climate change shifts distribution patterns of some of these fascinating animals.

It was fantastic to hear about these diverse projects and the lab and field challenges these young researchers face. We look forward to hearing more about your findings and seeing you advance further in your scientific careers!